Category Archives: How-to

Guides to building props or using certain techniques and materials

Benches from Beautiful Star

A few months ago, Triad Stage put on their Christmas show, Beautiful Star. Though it was a remount, it had some major design changes this year. For the props shop, we needed to build six church benches that could be rearranged throughout the show to create various “locations.”

For the quatrefoil cut-out, I laid out the pattern with a compass and cut it with a jigsaw. I sanded it smooth using a sanding drum that was nearly the same diameter as the individual circles in the pattern.

Cutting the quatrefoils
Cutting the quatrefoils

I took the time to make one of the quatrefoils as perfect as possible, and then used a pattern cutting bit on my router to cut the rest of the side panels. I needed twelve panels for the six benches I was making.

So many panels
So many panels

The team wanted the benches to be able to stack on top of each other, sit up on their sides, and otherwise act as instant scenery. They also needed to support the weight of actors standing on them, but be lightweight enough for children to carry them.

I routed a groove down the sides of all the legs. My jig kept the groove in the center of the leg and set stop points for the top and bottom as well. I also cut a tongue on the side panels, which you can see in the previous photos.

Routing the joints
Routing the joints

In the picture below, you can see I also cut a mortise and tenon for the apron to connect to the leg, and a notch for the leg to fit up into the seat. Additionally, the aprons and side panels were attached to the seat with pocket hole screws. This sucker was going to be strong.

Fitting it together
Fitting it together

The joints made the whole bench pretty sturdy even without glue, but once it was glued and screwed together, it was rock solid.

The unpainted bench
The unpainted bench

We glazed the seat with a dark brown and painted the sides white. During tech we added the white border around the seat to finish off the look. Now we have six lightweight church benches that can be used in a whole host of shows.

Beautiful Star bench
Beautiful Star bench

Video: Fake Hairspray

This week’s companion video for The Prop Effects Guidebook is the last one before the book releases this Friday! It is a short one too, demonstrating a can of fake hairspray, sometimes known as “haze in a can.” Though short, I think props people should see this product in action, since it can solve a lot of “burst of steam” type of challenges.

Hairspray

You can watch all the companion videos on YouTube.

The Prop Effects Guidebook is available for pre-order now at most major retailers.

Video: Blood Knife

The companion videos for The Prop Effects Guidebook just keep on coming. This week I demonstrate how to build the most basic type of blood knife you can. A blood knife is a specially-prepared knife that administers blood as it “cuts” an actor.

Blood knife

I will be releasing more of these companion videos as we draw closer to the book’s release. You can watch all of them on YouTube.

The Prop Effects Guidebook is available for pre-order now at most major retailers.

Video: Glowing Coals

I am back with another companion video to my upcoming book, The Prop Effects Guidebook. This is a quick and simple effect for making red hot glowing coals without the use of flame or heat. I first learned it from Jay Duckworth, who probably learned it from his mentor, who learned it from his, on back through history to Ancient Greece, when Propcrates invented props.

Glowing Coals

I will be releasing more of these companion videos as we draw closer to the book’s release. You can watch all of them on YouTube.

The Prop Effects Guidebook is available for pre-order now at most major retailers.

Video: Kabuki Drop with Solenoid

I am back with another companion video to my upcoming book, The Prop Effects Guidebook. The kabuki drop mechanism is simple (and the following video is short), but it can be helpful to actually see it in action.

Kabuki drop with solenoid

I will be releasing more of these companion videos as we draw closer to the book’s release. You can watch all of them on YouTube.

The Prop Effects Guidebook is available for pre-order now at most major retailers.